“So what’s the deal?” Chase asked, undeterred.
Normally Chad had no problem talking about his extracurricular activities and apparently there were a lot of them, but for some reason, he didn’t want to talk about Bridget with his brothers or Mitch, and not because he hadn’t had sex with her. He wanted to keep it between the two of them, whatever it was they had between them. She wasn’t like the other women—nothing like them. Which was kind of funny considering how he’d met her, but she was different. From what he knew, Bridget wasn’t pretentious or hardened and probably didn’t give a shit about the fact he played pro ball.
Chad couldn’t think of the last time he was with a woman who didn’t care about that. Aaand his brothers and Mitch were staring at him.
He slapped his cards down on the table. “Nothing is going on.”
“Yeah, I call bull on that shit.” Chase eyed him knowingly. “You were getting all kinds of personal with her today.”
“When is Chad not up in some woman’s personal space?” Mitch asked.
There were a few grumbled curses as the hand ended and the cards dealt again. Chase picked right up where he’d left off. “Bridget’s a good girl, you know.”
He moved his cards around. Full house, baby. “I know.”
“Do you? So you know her that well?” Chase countered.
Chad let out a low breath. “I wasn’t saying that.”
“Uh huh.” Chase paused, glancing at Chandler then turning back to him. “Did you sleep with her?”
Lowering his cards, he pinned his younger brother with a look. “Not that it’s any of your business, but no, I didn’t sleep with her. I already told you that.”
“We have a hard—”
“Time believing me.” He cut Chandler off as irritation pricked the back of his neck. “I get it. And seriously, I don’t want to talk about Bridget. Move the topic along.”
Three sets of curious stares landed on him. It was Chandler who looked the least shocked out of them. He placed two cards down and sat back, smiling to himself. Chad’s eyes narrowed.
“Okay.” Chase paused for a beat. “But can I give you a word of advice?”
Chase grinned and went on. “If you make Bridget unhappy, you’re gonna make Maddie unhappy. And that’s going to make me very unhappy.”
Chad didn’t want to wake up from the dream he was having. Hell no. There was a soft woman underneath him, full of lush curves and hair the color of red wine. She was arching into him, her head thrown back, and he was going so fast and so hard that the bed was slamming into the wall. He never wanted to stop.
The banging got louder until a very loud, very male curse exploded from somewhere upstairs and heavy feet stomped down the stairs, waking him up and ending his amazing dream.
Someone was at his brother’s door, and considering the kind of business Chandler ran—a high-profile personal security firm—God only knew who it could be.
All he wanted was to go back to sleep and pick up where he left off. Someone banged on the door again. Chad pried one eye open and grimaced at the bright glare of morning light shining in from the windows behind the couch. Shit. He was blinded and had a hard-on that rivaled marble.
He caught movement out of the corner of one eye and flipped onto his side. Stalking past the couch was Chandler in his boxers and nothing else. “Good morning, sunshine,” Chad called out, sitting up.
His brother shot him a nasty look as he went to the front door, wrenching it open so hard, Chad had to wonder how he didn’t tear the door right off its hinges.
“Who the fuck are you?” Chandler demanded.
Chad’s brows rose as he rubbed his forehead. Man, he hadn’t drunk that much last night, but he felt like he’d run his head into a brick wall. Shit. He was getting old.
“I need to see your brother immediately.”
An intense throbbing picked up in his left temple and his right eye twitched. Before he could yell not to let her in, Miss Gore brushed past a very pissed off Chandler, stopping only a brief second to give his brother a cursory look before pinning those dark, evil, soulless eyes on him. Chad grabbed the throw off the back of the couch and pulled it over his lap, even though just hearing that woman’s voice killed any lingering arousal.
She held a newspaper in her hand. It couldn’t be anything about him, since the gossips typically didn’t run until Sunday, so he relaxed about a fraction of an inch.
Chandler folded his arms over his chest. “Like I said, who the fuck are you?”
“She’s my babysitter I was telling you about,” Chad grumbled.
Miss Gore’s lips pursed. “I’m his publicist.”
“What-the-hell-ever,” Chandler said, taking off for the stairs. “I’m going back to bed. It’s too early for this shit.”
Chad watched his babysitter try and fail to not check out his brother. He smirked. Now here he thought Miss Gore was asexual. A door slammed shut a few moments later and Miss Gore got all pissy-faced again.
“To what do I owe this pleasure?” Chad asked, leaning back against the couch.
Without saying a word, she tossed the newspaper at him. It hit his chest. Rolling his eyes, he picked it up and flipped it over. His mouth dropped open. “Oh, shit.”
“Those weren’t the words I used,” she said, standing in front of him. Dressed in a boxy black skirt suit today, she still looked like a damn nun. “You were told to stay away from the women. Can you not make it an entire month?”
Chad could only stare at the headline of the sports section. NATIONALS’ PLAYBOY PITCHER MAKES A PLAY ON CONSTITUTION AVE. The picture below was of him and Bridget under the awning yesterday, kissing. Someone had a good camera because it was a tight shot on their faces.
“The manager of your Club is very disappointed in you and in me. That does not make me happy,” she said, crossing her arms.
“Does anything make you happy?”
She ignored that. “The fact this is even in the sports’ section is worse, Chad. I don’t think you understand how serious this is.”
Chad was too busy staring at the picture to really care. Damn it. He could practically feel Bridget pressed against him right now and that dream he had wasn’t helping. He couldn’t help but wonder what she would think when she saw the newspaper? Or had she already?
And why did he even care?
“Chad,” Miss Gore snapped.
Forgetting the babysitter was still there, he lifted his head and frowned. “What?”
Her frown was so deep he wondered if it would ever fade. “Why did this happen? We’ve been over this again and again. I cannot repair your image if you keep screwing up.”
Why had he done this? “I wanted to kiss her.”
Miss Gore blinked and then drew up to her full height, which was a whopping five feet and seven inches. “You wanted to kiss her. So you just normally kiss people when you want to?”
“It’s not like she was some random chick on the street.”
“Who is this whore, then?”
He was on his feet before he knew it. “You can call me every name you think I deserve, lady, but do not call her that. She is not a whore.”
Miss Gore watched him curiously and then smiled tightly. “Interesting.”
Throwing the paper onto the couch, he turned and shoved his fingers through his hair. “I haven’t slept with her, before you start accusing me of that.”
A pause and then, “She doesn’t seem like the typical woman you go after.”
If he wasn’t going to talk to his brothers about Bridget, he sure as hell wasn’t going to talk about it with the she-devil. “Look, this isn’t a big—”
“It is a big deal.” She sat on the other side of the couch, obviously in no mood to leave any time soon. Great. “My wake-up call this morning was not fun. After your manager expressed his vast disappointment, I was given an ultimatum.”
Unease soured in his gut. “Are they going to cancel my contract?”
Her expression turned severe. “There was talk of that, yes. There was also talk of firing me.”
As much as Chad disliked the woman, a bit of guilt festered within the unease. “I kissed a woman. That’s all. They don’t even know who she is. What if she was my girlfriend? Would they have a problem with that, too?”
Interest sparked in her dark eyes. “Is she your girlfriend?”
A surprised laugh escaped him. “No. I don’t do the dating thing.”
“And therein lies the problem. You do the screwing thing. If she were your girlfriend, then they wouldn’t have a problem with it. The problem is that in the last six months, you’ve been pictured with ten or so different women in very compromising positions. And when you’re not pictured with a woman, then you’re out partying. You’re giving the entire Club a bad reputation.”
Chad dropped his head into his hands and blew out a deep breath. Rubbing his fingers against his temples, he closed his eyes. “I don’t have a drinking problem.”
“I don’t think you do,” she said, surprising him. It seemed like she believed the worst about him when it came to everything else. “But your father did.”
His head jerked up, and his eyes narrowed. “Don’t even go there.”
Miss Gore was unfazed. “All I am saying is that it takes no leap of faith for people to make the jump to a certain conclusion. Your…family background plays into this.”
Of course it did. Even from the fucking grave his father was screwing things up. Then again, it wasn’t really fair to blame everything on dear old Dad. Chad was a grown man and therefore responsible for his own actions. And honestly, he did have his dad to thank for one thing. By watching his father, he learned what not to do with women.
Shit just didn’t work out from that point on. And while he didn’t have his father’s drinking habits, he’d obviously developed his womanizing ones.
“What is the ultimatum?” he asked, so over this conversation.
“I’ve been given a month to clean you up or your contract is canceled and I’m fired.” She paused, brows knitting. “I have never been fired before.”
“Shit.” He scrubbed his fingers through his hair. “I haven’t been with—”
“The newspaper says different, Chad. It’s all about perception. And I honestly don’t think anything will fix this. The Club has practically given up. They want you, but they don’t want your bad press.”
He sat back against the cushion and shook his head in disbelief. If he lost his baseball contract, he had no idea what he’d do. He had money to last him a while, but it wouldn’t be forever. And he loved the game. Without it, he’d just be going through the motions. And he really didn’t want to have to give up his family to go earn a paycheck in New York.
“There is one thing that should work,” she said quietly.